Oxbow - Thin Black Duke

by Steve Reynolds Rating:8 Release Date:2017-05-05

‘Thin Black Duke’ is the first album in 10 years for Oxbow and for a band that has been going for 30 years they focus on quality not quantity as this is only their seventh album.  Not willing to conform and fit into a particular box of music they only have one aim in mind, which is to make cerebral unsettling music packed full of stinking alienation. 

Eugene Robinson, besides being an amateur fighter, continues to flex his lyrical muscle and both his engaging and misanthropic delivery sits perfectly against his surroundings which are made up of blues, free jazz, metal and noise rock.

Robinson’s vocals can at times be incomprehensible but his unbridled passion and self-belief is what shines through like the opening of a porchlight piercing a bottomless black hole.

All seems calm and sedate when an innocent whistle cracks the silence on opener ‘Cold & Well Lit Place’ until Robinson’s grizzled, muffled at times vocal flits between the craggy grain of Tom Waits and the darkness of Greg Dulli.  His oppressed and cathartic singing style makes the band that surrounds him alien and disenfranchised as they circle around and let blasts of horns and jazz splayed all over it.

Oxbow sit on the darkside of the musical spectrum and the murderous tone that Robinson adopts on ‘Ecce Homo’ refuses to cleanse your pallet and merely adds more pain and fidget, it’s like a nagging fucking ulcer that refuses to buckle.  His vocal delivery is the beguiling quality of the band and he has the unquantifiable ability to trade one singing style in for another and even manages to do part J Mascis on ‘Letter Of Note’.

He mutters in true Robinson style on ‘The Upper’ and the uplifting dark lines of musical arrangement that sits around him bring the track up to the fore with a mix of morose and smoky melancholy. The bitterness continues with a vengeance on the enigmatic ‘Other People’ and the squaw of terse tortured brass and horns remains uncompromising and brutal.

Oxbow have stuck to their guns here and continues to make blistering and hard to decipher music but that is what makes this such a treat for your ears.

Meagre fruits these are not.

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